The Revd Canon Dr Hazel Whitehead, diocesan director of Discipleship, Vocation and Ministry
As you may be aware, there is a national challenge to increase the number of people coming forward for ordination by 50% by 2020. This means an increase from the current 500, to 750 every year. We need to resolve the problem that there are a lot of people like me – in their early 60s – who will be retiring in the next few years, and not enough younger clergy coming through to replace us. Of course, lay ministry and the work of all disciples is crucial to God’s mission, but the evidence is that where there is a full time ordained person in place, who can foster all kinds of vocations, the Church grows in depth and in number.
Currently, only about 25% of those coming forward are under 32, but the good news is that we have almost got to a place where the number of female candidates equals the number of males – although the women are less likely to be younger. Where there is a big gap is in the BAME constituency (Black and Minority Ethnic). It’s worth remembering that clergy don’t have to be white, middle-aged, university educated and married – they come in all shapes and sizes because God calls all kinds of people.
"Where there is a big gap is in the BAME constituency (Black and Minority Ethnic). It’s worth remembering that clergy don’t have to be white, middle-aged, university educated and married – they come in all shapes and sizes because God calls all kinds of people."
In the Diocese of Guildford, we have been working on this pro-actively and energetically and are especially keen to engender a culture where God’s call on people’s lives is a regular topic for discussion, and where everybody can be given an opportunity to try things out and have a go. A calling has to be discerned not just by an individual, but by the Church, so there are several ways of helping to find out what God may be saying to you.
You may want to come to a vocations roadshow – or ask to have one in your church; you may want to join an intern scheme – or suggest to young people you know that a gap year could include a season in a parish trying things out. If you would like to have a no-commitment conversation with a local vocations adviser please contact Revd Laurence Gamlen on 01932 874405 and have a chat or email him at email@example.com.
"There is a whole range of training opportunities and different types of ministry, so one size most definitely does not have to fit all."
What we have found in this diocese is that the number of younger people coming forward is increasing – but we also want to encourage older people, too. There is a whole range of training opportunities and different types of ministry, so one size most definitely does not have to fit all. Self-supporting ministers are in short supply, we need more ordained local ministers to stay in their home parish and, most of all, we need everybody to be praying about their own future and about others whom they might encourage.